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Facial injuries suffered by nursing home residents may be flying under the radar and adding a “substantial amount of costs” to the U.S. healthcare system, a recent study shows.

A research team from Wayne State University in Michigan conducted the first-ever population-based analysis of facial trauma in the skilled nursing setting, with the goal of shedding light on the “significant clinical issue.”

“Because [facial trauma] has been largely neglected in the literature, characterization of facial injury patterns among the elderly population, including the extent to which this affects our health care system, may be exceedingly invaluable,” the study’s authors wrote.

The team’s analysis of data from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System found that nearly 110,000 residents required emergency department care for facial trauma between 2011 and 2015. While residents in their 60s had relatively equal facial injury rates, the number of injuries increased with age for female residents.

The analysis also showed that the most common facial injury among nursing home residents were lacerations and other soft-tissue injuries, such as contusions or hematomas. The team estimated that nearly 3,000 facial fractures occurred in skilled nursing residents each year.

The analysis also found that 22.7% of facial fractures occurred as a resident was transferring in and out of bed, suggesting an area of targeted interventions from providers, healthcare researchers and policymakers.

Results of the study were published last Thursday in JAMA Otolaryngology – Head & Neck Surgery.